new camera equipment should i get (studio)

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TPF Noob!
Aug 18, 2010
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hey everyone,

i'm getting more and more into photography. i mainly do portraits. i have a canon t1i, 24-70 f2.8, 430exii and a lastolite ezybox 24 by 24.

i'm looking slowly invest into lights so i can turn my basement into a studio.
i was looking into the alienbee b800 and think they're pretty good. i don't really do outdoors (yet) but if i do i could throw in the 300 to get the travel pack.

i was also thinking of getting the heavy duty light stand and the large softbox. probably about 500 bucks. is this decent to get or is there something better i can get for this price? maybe i should get umbrella instead to fill the area? please let me know what you guys think!

I was also looking at this:

u get 2 lights and the stands, much cheaper, but quality is more important for me. i can afford 2 alien bees (i mean i spread it across 6 months )

also i was thinking,, do u think it's worth it to sell my canon t1i for a canon 7D? the 19 point AF system looked really awesome.
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Personally, I would go with the ABs - I think they're among the best value for the money in studio lights. Can't comment on the Canon question; I only speak Nikon and Mamiya.
so the Lastolite RayD8 c3200 aren't as good?
i was just thinking for 2, and the "what you see is what you get", sounds pretty good. but yeah i've heard some great things about alien bees
The kit you linked to are Tungsten lamps (continuous lighting) and Alien Bees are studio strobes (flash). Those are two completely different types of lighting.

You can outfit your studio with either type (continuous or strobe) but you probably don't want to mix them. So you first step should be to decide which type you want.

One advantage of continuous lighting, is that what you see is what you get...there isn't a lot of mystery involved. The bad part is that with continuous lighting, you have to rely on your shutter speed for the exposure and slow shutter speeds can give you blur when either the camera or the subject may move.

The advantage of strobes is that the flash is very fast and can freeze movement, which makes for sharp photos of people etc. The disadvantage is that it's not really 'what you see is what you get', and figuring out your exposure & lighting is a bit more involved.

If you plan to shoot people in your studio, then my suggestion is to go with strobes. If you're just shooting still life, then you are fine with continuous lighting and a tripod.

So if you decide to go with strobes, you can choose to go with flash units (like your 430EX), monolights or a pack & head system. Flash units have the advantage that they are small & light (easy to pack) and run on batteries. Thus they are great for on-location work. You can get cheaper units for around $100 or you can get expensive ones like the Canon 580EX. The expensive ones have a built-in wireless system that allows you to control the remote units and retain E-TTL flash metering, just like you have when the flash is on the camera. But at $500 for a 580 and $300 for a 430, this can get expensive. The cheaper ones would require a trigger system and have to be set up manually, but save you a lot of money (and some like that they are cheap, so you don't have to worry about a $500 flash breaking when the light stand falls over).

Monolights are studio lights like the Alienbees. Each light is self contained and plugs into a power outlet. Some advantages over flash units is that they recycle very quickly and are typically more powerful than flash units. They also have modeling lamps (regular bulb) which can help you to see what you're doing. The disadvantage is that they need AC power, so either plugged in or a portable battery pack like AB's Vagabond.

Pack & head systems are similar, except that the lights aren't self contained. Instead the control pack is plugged in and then you plug in up to four flash heads. The heads are typically smaller than a monolight (although modern monolights are pretty small).

My recommendation would be to go with monolights, but there is nothing wrong with a pack & head system.

As mentioned, Alienbees are a popular brand of monolights. (I use them). They do offer a good value but there are other brands to consider. (it's been discussed to death on this forum, so try searching out some old threads).

Accessories like light stands, umbrellas, softboxes etc. are part personal preference and part budget. I prefer a softbox to an umbrella because it allow for better control of the light. But umbrellas do give you nice soft light, they're cheap and they pack down nicely.
Heavy duty light stands are always a good idea (compared to the flimsy ones) but they are big & heavy, which might be an issue if you are not always in your studio.

There are many other things to consider but you don't need to go buy everything at once. Many people say that it's best to start with one light and learn how to use it. Then buy more equipment as you need it.
wow thanks, that was a great response Big Mike. really well done.
i did some other research and it looks like strobe is definitely want to go for. clearly i'm still learning but i think the alien bee will be a great addition.

definitely buy 1 light, learn how to use it and then get more. i have some cheap wireless triggers (worked alright so far). so i think i will be utilize them well with my 430 exii and the alien bee with a softbox.

i might get an umbrella first just to see fiddle around with first and then get the softbox later. thanks for your feedback again.

i'll probably buy one later this week after a bit more reading :)
Mike did cover it all,

Also check your local ads website.
i found a really nice almost never used studio flash kit for really cheap on kijiji.
if you have the money and want something new, i would go with the alienbees,
SPEEDOTRON 2401-A POWER PACK, W/ POWER CORD - eBay (item 200490078021 end time Aug-29-10 16:16:31 PDT)

Speedotron 2401A pack $350 Buy It Now price

Buy three 102 light heads at $125 or so each

Speedotron Complete Portable Lighting System - eBay (item 220657327999 end time Aug-29-10 22:10:53 PDT)
Here is a two power pack, 6-head COMPLETE setup that would be worth $800,and will probably sell for about that much..two packs, 600 and 400 watt-seconds, eight outlets, plus the ability to run Y-cable splitters to run as many as,well, 16 heads....

Speedotron Blackline 2400 W.S 2401b Flash Power Pack - eBay (item 150485250928 end time Sep-05-10 08:42:00 PDT)
A 2401b pack for $369...these things are durable...these are the Ford F150 of studio flash....I own a pair of these...these things run SIX flash heads...and have something like 575 different flash power combinations. How does the thought of six flash heads,each at 400 "real" watt-seconds (what Alien Bees calls 800 watt-seconds) each, for $370, plus $125 per light unit, sound??? Want one head at 1,200 W-S and one head at 800 W-S--easy!

How about two heads, each at 1,200 watt-seconds??? This is the kind of situation where pack and head systems blow the doors off of monolights, both in terms of cost, and power, and flexibility...monolights that can output 1200 or 1600 or 2000 or 2400 watt-seconds are exceptionally expensive. Monolights are cost-effective at 1 or 2 light units, but quickly become very expensive if you need 4,5,or 6 heads, or need high-powered lights, or combinations of unusual outputs, like a 1,600 W-S and an 800 w-s unit.
As an eBay Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
hm Derrel, what you showed seems a little bit complex for me? right now the alienbee b800 feels like a good step up from the canon 430 exii and allows me to do a lot more things.

i'll still keep my cano 430 exii, good for just going out family stuff, nothing too serious outdoors. plus i still have the lastolite ezybox to mess around with in combination with the alienbee b800
Complex??? All you need is a $350-$369 power pack and a 102 light head....Plug the power cord into a wall outlet, hook the cord to the pack, and then plug the 102 light unit into the power have a single light unit with power output from 50 watt seconds to 2,400 watt-seconds...

Pack and head systems are very simple, really. They might look intimidating, but they're really quite simple devices.
hmm can anyone else post their thoughts on derrel's suggestions? (versus the alienbee or whatever else you have to suggest)
You may also want to consider where you plan to go with this venture. Do you plan to just take a few portraits, maybe make a little money....or do you aspire to own a successful studio (in-home or not)?

Buying your gear bit by bit is usually an easier way to get into something like this...but it will inevitably be more expensive in the long run.
So if you do plan on having a full working studio, then it might well be worth looking into the options that Derrell has pointed out.

I do think that those lights are of a higher quality than Alienbees.

Also, I just noticed that you asked about upgrading to a 7D over your T1i. Yes, the 7D has better AF, but that's not something I'd consider important for studio shooting. For wedding...sure. For sports, absolutely...but not for studio work.
awesome big mike,yeah i was leaning away from the 7D upgrade. just i got tempted cause i saw the new features and it had better video (the t1i has some video issues)

that's also why i considered the vistek deal with the tungsten lights, because for the "what you see what you get" thing, you can also use the lights for videos with the proper light modifiers.

i dunno, still got lots to think about. i think in the next 2 years i'd like a studio in my basement, but i tguess u're right, the first thing i realy need to figure out is what i'm gonna use the lights for. then i'll decide on waht to do.

thanks for all your input everybody!
Yeah about the t1i, 7D isn't that much better for studio work. 5d mk2 is though.
well noted. yeah i think i'll stick with the t1i. lots of room for imrpvoemetns still.
then in about 2 years when i get better, i'll get my first FF
hey guys i've decided to get the alienbee b800.
off the site it says to canada , it does UPS shipping but UPS may ship you a brokerage fee, anyone from canada know how much this is? i just want to know my bduget. i'm from toronto.
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